Dehydrator

animalmom

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We recently purchased a Nesco American Harvest dehydrator and so I wanted to ask you dehydrator folks how you use your machine, any tips, anything to avoid... in other words how to know and love dehydrating.

We are also interested in doing fruit rolls and bought the special insert, so again any tips, pitfalls, advise not included in general instructions.

Why do you like your dehydrator? How long do dehydrated fruit or vegetables (apple slices or hot/sweet peppers) last?

Does the drying time increase with the number of trays?

How do you know the item being dried is sufficiently dried? The manual makes a big point to not overdry, but how do you know?

As always our BYHers are the most knowledgeable folks to ask, and I thank you greatly in advance for ANY guidance.
 

Baymule

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I make grape tool ups with zucchini. Get two cans frozen Welches grape juice. Peel, core and chunk 3-4 baseball bats, you know, the big ones that you missed. LOL simmer in 1 can Welches frozen grape juice and as little water as possible until zucchini is very soft. Drain. Run zucchini through a blender, adding half can of welches frozen grape juice. Spread purée on solid sheets and dehydrate. They are GOOD!

Hash browns- peel taters, use mandolin to make hash browns, place in bowl of water until done, to keep them from turning black. When done with making hash browns, blanch in boiling water, cool in cold water, drain on paper towels. Spread on trays and dehydrate. Use in soup or cover with water 15 minutes, drain and cook as hash browns. Store in quart or half gallon canning jars.

I love my dehydrator. Yes it takes longer with more trays, but I always run mine with all 9 trays full.

Do you have a Food Saver vacuum sealer? Vacuum sealed, dehydrated foods will keep for years.

I have puréed raw tomatoes and poured on the solid sheets and dehydrated them for tomato flakes. Good on salads. I slice tomatoes and dehydrate them. I dry can them in half pint jars placed on a cookie sheet at 250* for 4 minutes to pop a seal.

Welcome to the world of dehydrating. Homemade jerky is da’ BOMB!
 

Mike CHS

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Before we moved here we used our dehydrator all of the time but now we have three large freezers, it doesn't get used much. We keep jerky on hand all of the time so that is the most use now. Every once in awhile we will see things on sale that lends itself to drying. Things like celery (cooked first) dehydrates great and keeps for years. About the only thing we found that doesn't do great is bell peppers but we just dry them and then turn them into bell pepper powder. You get all of the taste of fresh without the need to cook all day. Slice apples is another of our favorites and since we have an orchard, close by, that is also something we do every year. We put about everything that is sliced into a mixture of lemon juice and water to keep them from turning colors.
 
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misfitmorgan

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Good tips so far.

I have a nesco snackmaster and I LOVE it!!!! :love:love I only bought it 2 weeks ago but I did have one(cheap model with bottom fan) a few years ago.

I do know you need to blanch carrots, potatoes, and celery for 3 minutes in boiling water. Onions and peppers are 1 minute. Apples, tomatoes, and garlic no blanching needed. Mushrooms you boil in water until they look like canned ones and potato slices you blanch until just fork tender only.

For apple slices it depends on your goal. If you want to later make pies, dehydrate until you can fold a slice in half and the outside middle just tears a bit. Same for snacking dried apples. If you want apple chips dry until they snap when you try to bend them in half.

Keep in mind most all things i have dehydrated become more brittle after they cool completely. Most everything I dry is 12-18hrs with 5 trays.

For storage we just put in empty mason jars, they last 3+yrs pretty easy. If you want a longer shelf life use a jar vacuum sealer like bay suggests or drop an oxygen absorber into the top of your jar before putting the lid on.

Never add fat or oil to anything you are dehydrating(jerky aside of course) because it will turn rancid over time. You can make your own powders with a coffee grinder....like garlic powder, onion power, tomato power, etc. Dehydrate your item until it is DRY then grind then dump the powder back out on the fruit leather trays and let run for 3-4 more hours until it no longer clumps when you press it together with your fingers.

There is a lady i love that has a youtube channel called "Our Half Acre Homestead" she dehydrates all kinds of stuff...like raw eggs which not usda recommended but she does it and cheese to make cheese powder. Really interesting stuff and recipes. She has FM so doesnt work outside of the home but she is a really funny lady.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcZzXUnMdRnmYqLK-y4D_Pg

So far I have dehydrated
2 dozen apples - free from our apple trees
35lbs of deer carrots - $4something
9 celery bunches - local sale 69cents each
4 big bags of coleslaw mix - local sale 99cents
pint of cherry tomatos - were starting to get wrinkles

Why dehydrate instead of can? Everything I listed above fits into 5 quart jars, 1 pint jar, and will keep us feed thru winter when produce prices go up. Also it's ways easier!
 

Mike CHS

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We usually first put sliced fruit in a lemon juice and water to keep the fruit from turning colors. @misfitmorgan does your fruit turn? I may be doing a step I don't need to do.
 

rachels.haven

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We have a dehydrator too. It might even be a nesco, but the jerky model. I've made crab apple fruit leather, muscovy jerky, dried tomatoes, and dried apples in ours. The fruit leather needs lots of sugar, but the kids eat it like candy. We just do everything until it feels "done". Not sure on time. I feel like it varies, sometimes on the weather. Overdrying hasn't been a big deal so far. The inserts are good, btw. I'm not sure how long anything lasts because it tends to get eaten fast. :idunno
 

misfitmorgan

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We usually first put sliced fruit in a lemon juice and water to keep the fruit from turning colors. @misfitmorgan does your fruit turn? I may be doing a step I don't need to do.
The only thing I put in water and lemon juice was apple slices. For the apple I dont think it matters much because they end up light tan regardless. Anything you blanch doesnt need lemon water, like potatoes i just slice into cold water then drain and blanch. I have yet to do peaches, nectarines, or pears they might need lemon water. I doubt I will be doing them any time soon as they are very costly here.

A good book with a fair bit about dehydrating is the guide to preserving book by Ball(newest eidition to the blue book for those who can). It also has freezing info, recipes, pickling, just some really cool recipes and things to make that you wouldnt think about like champagne jelly(not made it yet but I want too).
https://www.amazon.com/Ball-Blue-Book-Preserving-Digital-ebook/dp/B0136ZFKRS/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=Blue+Book+Guide+To+Preserving&qid=1571915041&s=audible&sr=8-7
 

animalmom

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Yes, we have a good vacuum sealer.

So it sounds like this whole dehydrating process isn't as mysterious as the manufacturer's manual implies.

Thanks to all who have read/responded. You all are very helpful.

Won't promise that this is the last question, so... can you over-dry?

The manual makes a big deal about not over-drying but doesn't give any guidelines, other than fruit 8 - 12 hours. I presume the shorter time is for less quantity and the longer time is for a fully loaded multi-tray array... or am I overthinking the whole thing?

I know what dried fruit looks and feels like: pliable, not crunchy. What happens when you go beyond to the crunch stage? The manual has me thinking that the fruit is ruined. What's wrong with crunchy apple slices... snack food, right?

BYHers are the best resource one can have!
 

Mike CHS

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I'm guessing since I have never gotten anything to the crunchy point but some foods might not re-hydrate well if they get crunchy but for snacks, I can't see where it matters. I know when I dehydrate celery I get it over dried intentionally since I know it's completely dry and will keep for years as long as it is kept sealed. It doesn't re-hydrate well but it doesn't matter since the taste is there and it just doesn't get back into the "whole" state.
 

Mini Horses

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I have an old Nesco, four trays..NO fan. Only controls are opening the vents at top more or less. :D Hey, only $8 at Habitat, barely used and works great. SO...the thing I see no one has mentioned --maybe I am only one with this type-- but you must move tray order, to get optimum overall results. Plus, I find that some things (most) need to have the pieces moved during the drying. I actually have to remove some before all are complete. This has to do with the size of the pieces, the moisture in each piece, plus the location ON the tray. Some are just "done" sooner.

Again, much may have to do with mine being one that relies on the heat circulation by drawing air thru the bottom, over the heat coils and up thru the center holes, as well as those in trays, and out the top vents. Even with the more advanced models, no doubt there is a need to consider the size of pieces and moisture content. Ripe fruits have more sugars, moisture, etc.

I use mine for fruits, mostly but, have done some veggies. Plan to use it for more next spring as a way to preserve in a different manner than freeze & can.
 

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